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April 05, 2015


Most of my spring traditions revolve around anti-histamines. ;-) Spring is when everything blooms here in the pollen/allergen capital of the country. And I'm basically allergic to anything in the air beyond oxygen and nitrogen, with pollen (and dust) are way up there. (Although nothing hits me as hard, and in as small quantities, as marijuana.)

But this year, things are a little confused in California as far as spring is concerned by the fact that we basically didn't do winter. In addition to minimal rainfall (the snowpack is barely 5% of normal!), it didn't get cold much. I mean, 80 degree days in February?!? Come on! Even in California that is weird -- and in Northern California even more so.

For me, the most important thing in the Spring is Easter. I don't claim to be overly religious, but I try to spend the Good Friday indoors, without doing chores or working, meditating on the Passion and try to go to church at least once during the festivities. That's how we Lutherans roll in Finland. This counts as abnormally active devotion here.

Nowadays, it has become more automatic because I've been asked by the parish to act as an extraordinary minister of eucharist, so I often get some service (as an altar server, reader or in some other role) assigned during the Eastertide. Curious: I have had always the principle that if the church calls me, I obey, but for years, it was a theoretical standpoint. After our first child was baptised and the celebrating priest found out that my wife and I were not complete heathens, I've had my share of work put upon me.

And in line with wj, antihistamines are a big thing for me, too. They are the pills that keep me going through the spring and the summer.

Today is Opening Day for Major League Baseball.

Next Friday is opening day for my baseball league.

The field will be fragrant and newly mowed and I'll do my stretching in center field, shag some practice fly balls, and make some long throws to third, all the while breathing in the Spring perfume and gratified to hear the sounds of the baseball hitting leather and the wood bat.

Then it's batter up.

I'll toss a few blades of grass in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.

I'm still here.

Good luck getting it over my head.

Lurker, I've found lately that Quercetin and nettles, combined, seem to keep the whole allergy thing from getting started. As opposed to waiting until the eyes and nose start running, and then trying to treat that. You might want to give it a try.

(Is this where I insert the "I am not a medical professional" line?)

Cut-and-paste from a letter I just wrote my family:

Good day so far, in every sense - spiritually auspicious, musically grand, physically beautiful (70F and sunny - our daffs are almost gone, but our tulips are glorious), and sportingly sound. I sang two services (9 & 11 - I skipped the Sunrise service, as always) at Duke Chapel: short introit by Bruch ("Christus ist auferstanden" [Christ is risen] which I insist, based on my vast knowledge of German, should be translated as "Christ is Outstanding!"); lots of ripping organ music, most of it accompanied by brass, on processional and recessional and other interstices of the service (we have two organs/organists who were literally letting out the stops today - after one interlude I muttered that he must be thinking "I have an organ and I'm not afraid to use it"); a Bach anthem ("Das Lamm, das erwuerget ist," from Cantata 21), not one of his best, but still Bach; and at the first (communion) service Byrd's lovely Ave Verum Corpus and at the second a Haitian Creole (Kreyol) "Pak Ayisyen" - Alelouya - which is livelier than most and tricky as heck for the sopranos, but not so bad for basses, who mostly sing repetitive phrases like "Kris vivan" (Christ lives) "glwar a Dye" (glory to God - it helps if you know a little French). Both services attended by hundreds, mostly happy, not just because He Is Risen (as they kept saying to one another), but because . . .

Duke won last night, getting into the NCAA (basketball) finals tomorrow night! Not only beat Michigan State resoundingly, but will face in the finals Wisconsin, rather than much-vaunted and previously undefeated Kentucky. This is good because (1) Kentucky was supposed to be so bloody great - some said they were a match for an NBA team; (2) Kentucky's coach is a louse, whereas Wisconsin's is one of the good guys; (3) we already beat Wisconsin once this season, albeit months ago, so that doesn't signify much; and (4) my son & family are echt Wisconsinians (Baby Badgers, Cheeseheads, whatever), which means even if we lose, we (kinda) win by proxy.


Not exactly a family tradition, but it's what we do. Ham tonight, in part because it's real cheap this week. Elsewhere in the world my brother sang the St. Matthew Passion in Karlsruhe, Germany, and my sister preached a sermon somewhere in Southern California. Our son & family went to the farmer's market in Madison and watched basketball; haven't heard this weekend from our daughter, but I assume their lives involve church services, Easter dinner, and (for son-in-law, an avid gardener) planting trees.

Meanwhile, back in NC: I hate to pay any kind of tribute to our neighboring rivals, but I keep thinking in this season of that adage: "If God isn't a Tarheel, why is the sky Carolina Blue?"

Life is good.

Doctor S.,

Do you include an orange on your seder plate?


You bet. Also an olive, for peace in the Middle East.

Doctor S.,

I haven't seen the olive before. Good idea.

April is the start of the school year here in Japan, and being a teacher and having two kids, that gives me all the traditions I can handle. (This is also the time that all full time jobs start, so the whole country has its hands full)

When I started at this university, I organized, with the very lukewarm support of my colleagues, a freshman weekend camp which is now part of the mix. At first, my older daughter and now my younger daughter come out there and we stay the night, but I figure the younger one has 1 or 2 more times before she gets tired of it. At freshman camp, we do an egg hunt, when that started, I explained how it was an Easter tradition and tried to give an introduction about the linkage to christianity, but with events like these, you try to have the students be the organizers and having the students give theological explanations about foreign religions doesn't really lend itself to the smooth transfer of institutional knowledge.

"I'm not completely satisfied with either the design or the execution. "

Actually, Doc, IMO those are pretty great.

"Also an olive, for peace in the Middle East."


spring here, about 15 miles north of boston, is still kind of a rumor.

we still have snow piles a foot or so deep. the very first crocuses are just now up. we dug the snow out of few beds to find some pretty big plants - hinokis, a dwarf gingko - basically crushed.

gonna a be a couple of weeks before anything looks like "spring".


aw shucks, thank you. I'm one of those truly amateur artists who can never get what they make to match what they see in their heads.

Opening day. The best reflection of all that is good in being human. A lazy afternoon just hanging around. No hurry, lots of angst, the ultimate blend of individual achievement and team camaraderie. Intense strategy. The thrill of the moment, the pitch, the swing...the crack of the bat...the dance of 9 all moving to where they need to be, smoothly choreographed and executed. Beauty, power, complex simplicity.

I'm also in California, so my winter was basically wj's. It was up to 90 in March, which we agreed was way too much too soon. Fortunately, the high pressure broke and we got normal spring like weather for the last week. (Mid-70s and breezy.)

our daffodils have come and and are almost gone. and i didn't see any crocuses this year - they might have bumped into a late cold snap.

right now, the redbuds are rocking and the dogwoods are just starting.

I just heard of an old English belief that the daffodil is born on Ash Wednesday and dies at Easter, reflected in passing in an A.E. Housman poem, The Lent Lily. Never heard it before, but it worked for us (approximately) this year.

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